The lectioanry readings for today are:
Proverbs 30: 1 - 9
Matthew 4: 1 - 11
Today we are offered Matthew's take on Jesus' temptations (just in case anyone doesn't know, the order is different in Matthew and Luke, no specific temptations are named in Mark, John doesn't even mention this aspect of the story) set alongside a rather curious bit from Proverbs:
The words of Agur son of Jakeh. An oracle.Thus says the man: I am weary, O God, I am weary, O God. How can I prevail?
Surely I am too stupid to be human; I do not have human understanding.
I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the holy ones.
Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of the hand? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is the person's name? And what is the name of the person's child? Surely you know!
Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words, or else he will rebuke you, and you will be found a liar.
Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, "Who is the LORD?" or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:1 - 9
The start of this little passage probably strikes a chord for many of people... I am weary... physically? mentally? emotionally? spiritually? Any or all of these? And stupid... do we sometimes feel like that too? What a numpty I am...? How thick am I? These are the words of a deep thinker, perhaps a sage, perhaps a scholar, perhaps, in out day, a professor, an industry expert, a world authority... This clever, thoughtful person feels useless.
Well, maybe it's just me, but I found that encouraging!
After the self-deprecation comes the reminder of God's fidelity and then an incredibly profound prayer... give me neither riches nor poverty, just let me have sufficient. Why? Too much and I will become self-reliant, denying my dependence on God; too little and I amy take matters into my own hands and behave in ways that profane God. Wow. The numpty who wrote that sounds remarkably wise to me.
But, I have a dilemma... the old Methodist covenant prayer, which I dearly love, says 'let me be full, let me empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing' (or words to that effect), and we intuitively think this is a good prayer. Which is better then? Proverbs or the Methodist Covenant? What subtlety is it that allows us to hold the two together as alternative expressions of a deep truth?
When Goldilocks went to the house of the bears
(as the nursery song expresses it)
She tasted porridge that was
She found chairs and beds that were
What is this 'just right'
This middle ground
When God looks on earth, God sees
The West that has too much
The rest that has too little
Is anywhere just right?
When God attends our prayers, God hears
Calls for more health and more wealth
Calls for less poverty and less disease
Does anyone one seek just right?
Lord, you have not promised us wealth or health
You have promised us your presence
Please show us what 'just right' looks like
That we may honour your name
And never forget our place in your embrace.